Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Shattered Hopes and Next Time (There will be a next time)

Today I’m supposed to be in Panama City, Florida competing in my first Iron Man triathlon. That ambition died in August thanks to a heel spur beneath my left foot. At that time, it was not clear whether or not I’d be able to get sufficient training in to brave the event. By the time I shut down training the heel had significantly reduced my ability to run regularly at the appropriate tempos. Still, there were other issues too, particularly with my back that was forcing me to periodically get off my bike to stretch for a few minutes to alleviate acute pain. Oddly, the swim – which had caused the most concern initially — was the least of my worries. Even under injury-free conditions, it would have been a close call to the end, a close call I was relishing even if the probability of disaster was real. By disaster I mean that I would not have run the marathon respectably.

As I take inventory of what happened, I do so with an eye looking toward a future where middle age health issues will be even more challenging. So this year, beginning a few weeks ago, will be one of conditioning my legs and core so I can train for long distances effectively for the rest of my life. Last year I was much too cavalier believing that mostly prepping the events themselves would do the trick. I learned the hard way that this is inadequate for me. For weeks now I’ve worked closely with my physical therapist on batteries of exercises for my legs and core that I must keep performing several times per week to strengthen my legs and back in order to balance asymmetries in strength due most likely to excessive weight and cycling. These exercises now are part of my weekly routine and I have resumed running short distances.

All I plan to do between now and spring are my leg/core exercises and running, to slowly build a base for long-distance running as best I can. The goal is to begin cycling in the spring and get in some swimming in the summer. But the main emphasis this training year will be on strength and conditioning for my legs and core so I can become an effective long distance runner. I am most vulnerable to running injuries so it’s imperative that I make marathoning a strength before I entertain the thought of Iron Man training again. It might be two years before I can become an effective marathoner.

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